French JDL - AFP - 16092011
An anti-racism group protesting the French JDL in Paris in 2009. Photo by AFP
Text size

PARIS - The French branch of the Jewish Defense League - an organization banned in Israel and America as a terrorist group - is recruiting people for a mission here next week to help "defend the settlements" of the West Bank.

According to a spokesman for La Ligue de Defense Juive in France - where the organization is legal - the mission will take place between September 19 and September 25 and will be made up of five groups of 11 people each, who will take up their "stands" in five different West Bank villages.

In Israel, the JDL's sister movement Kach, as well as its offshoot Kahane Lives - whose stated goals included the violent expulsion of Arabs from the country - were both outlawed in 1994 on the grounds that they were terror organizations and as such, posed a threat to state security.

The participants in the current mission, Frenchmen and women between the ages of 23 and 34, all have military training - in fact that was a prerequisite for joining the mission, says Amnon Cohen, a spokesman for the group, who himself was a soldier in the French Foreign Legion for 15 years.

The plan, says Cohen, is not to "provoke the Arabs," but rather to "be on hand in case the settlements need our help with defense if the Arabs attack at this precarious time."

The participants' expenses have been paid for by French donors that the group declined to identify.

The LDJ had no trouble organizing the logistics for its Israel mission, says Cohen, and everything has already been coordinated in advance with the five settlements.

The participants will not fly to Israel as a group, he adds, but rather are coming separately, leaving from Paris and Nice airports. Some are already in Israel.

The JDL was established by Meir Kahane in the late 1960s. In the United States, it is considered to be a violent, racist and extremist organization, and is on the FBI's list of terror groups.

In France, the controversial LDJ has been involved over the years in various demonstrations, some of them violent. Its members have appeared, for example, to protest at a book event of an author known for anti-Israeli positions; a performance of a well-known comic who is critical of Israel; a photography exhibit showing pictures of war victims in Gaza; and the offices of various news organizations they feel are biased against Israel. The LDJ demonstrated when Palestinian political prisoner Marwan Bargouti was honored by a local municipality, and also mounted a protest outside the Percy hospital when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was brought there for treatment, chanting, "Arafat, bastard, the Jews will have your skin."

Over the years, various leaders of the organization have clashed with the police and several have been arrested - but the group remains legal.